Roadmap 2014 – Logs

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2014 is going to be a big year for me. I wanted to take the time and make a few simple things crystal clear for everybody. I don’t want to have to repeat myself any more than is necessary.

This is where I will be logging everything from now on. Everything that I need to say to the world will be logged right here. I will no longer be engaging much in social discussions on other platforms.

The reasons are simple. I have been blogging every day since 2001 and have received very little feedback or engagement from others. At the moment, more and more people are showing interest in what I have to say and so this is the optimal way for me to keep everyone on the same page.

Again, I will be interacting very little on other platforms. In order to simplify things for myself, I will be posting everything anyone needs to know right here, in these ongoing Logs. These Logs are all Public-Facing. I reserve the right to communicate with others across more private channels. However, I have found that too many people do not know how to respect my privacy properly when I interact with them privately, and so I am forced in this way to do everything out in the open.

To conclude, another reason I am not going to be interacting much with others on social media sites is that people also don’t seem to know how to respect me there either. It is in this that way I have set up a kind of buffer zone, if you will, between myself and the world. I face the world, the world faces me, the Interface between these two is my personal website.

This is not meant to offend anyone. If ever you feel that you haven’t received the memo it’s probably because I never sent one to anybody. Come back here and check the Logs. This is not meant to Provoke but rather to Denounce, though no individual shall be named or otherwise made identifiable in any way. This is not about YOU, it’s about ME.

You see, here is the thing, plain and simple. If I continue interacting and engaging with others on social sites and in private channels, I lose this ability to freely speak my mind publicly like this. This is the only way going forward that I can freely speak my mind publicly and have a clean conscience about it. Anyone who is offended by this will have to check their own conscience, or check this website for updates on what I’m thinking and doing. (It’s not like I will be doing anything out of the ordinary. These are just Logs, more or less like an expanded Calendar and To-Do List combined).

Life is too short. You’ve got to learn to relax. I find that too many people have become information gluttons, are suffering from a new kind of gluttony that is pervasive and something that I find is bad for my heart, my spirit, and my soul. Too many people are afraid, but I am not afraid. Be not afraid. 2014 is going to be a big year for me. If you think that I have disappeared, I haven’t. I am right here, using this platform as my Interface with the World.

A.G. (c) 2013

The Living Museum of Modern Antiquity

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I have always been an amateur collector of fine things, a collector of rare finds. Amongst my most prized possessions are my many typewriters. They are all analog typewriters, and in fact most of what I collect is either analog or long past its due-date, if you will. I have had old telephones in the collection, everything from staplers to an abacus to old apparel from the Age of the Library Card Catalogue.

In essence, I am surrounded by old forgotten things, objects lost in time. I surround myself with objects from another time, another era. Primarily, old books line the bookshelves one finds against every wall. I collect old filing cabinets, other historically relevant Office Supplies, from old file folders to old agendas, calendars, and notebooks.

I am in The Living Museum of Modern Antiquity where everything is so ephemeral, it is already useless once it comes off the shelf. But what these objects, these things, lose in utility, they gain in sublime beauty, of being physical memories from another era. This is the archaeological context in which I live: The context of Modern Antiquity where the Modern itself is ancient history.

At the same time, the typewriters still function properly. The abacus is still quite useful. Nothing changed, nothing happened that made these things obsolete. The times never changed, they could not change, only people changed, habits changed. The Perennial Typewriter Keyboard is the same keyboard found today on most mobile computing devices. The same old ideas are simply recycled, given a fresh Veneer of Newness, sold at ridiculous prices for something you already had 100+ years ago.

You are foolish not to love History, when History is all around you. The Daguerreotype process still produces the most profoundly beautiful photographs. For a time, the Daguerreotype might have fallen out of use, was temporarily replaced by bolder, newer methods, but now, after all this time, it suddenly begins to shine with such intrinsic worth. The Daguerreotype is Sublime, as ancient ruins are sublime. You latest gadgets are out-numbered, it is them who are out of place in History, for they have not yet found their place in the historical record.

Timeless, Like Glass

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It would appear that there really is some method to the madness sometimes. I’m an artist and love reading what art historians and art theorists have to say about art as much as the next person, but with regard to the higher-order aspects of art practise, if you will, I like to get my wisdom closer to the source, from the practitioners themselves.

What better place to start looking, then, than at my own art practise! I have already done it and this is what I see. Let me refer to the art of Painting first. I am a professional painter, amongst other things, but to simplify things a little, let me focus for the time being on The Art of Painting.

Personally, I find that a large segment of the population tends to misconceive the work that artists’s do. Increasingly, in fact, it would appear that many artists are misconstruing the work they themselves set out to do. It is not a free-for-all. In a sense, I am merely reporting the cultural news, if you will. I am reporting what Human Culture with a capital C is saying and doing at the moment. I did not choose what Culture is, nor what She is saying and doing, in fact I never even chose to become a reporter of such things, at least not in any real sense. Therefore, I disagree categorically with the argument that artists have all the liberties in the world when doing their work as artists, when engaging in their art practise. I also think that it is a dangerous misconception.

More and more, one hears individuals speaking at length on concepts such as Relevance, what is relevant and what is not relevant. First of all, the term they are using was borrowed from information science, namely from information retrieval and search in particular. One speaks of the results of a query input into a search engine and the relevance of the results returned (a.k.a. the output). The term went on to be used in more general ways with regard to things like RSS feeds and then Twitter feeds or just plain news-reading practises in general. In this case, suddenly what is relevant becomes Signal and what is irrelevant or not relevant becomes Noise and all of a sudden individuals were now speaking of their Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds in terms of Noise control and the proverbial signal-to-noise ratio.

Understood. What does this have to do with the art practise? Weren’t we going to be talking about the practise of Painting? Why are we speaking of Relevance? One of the reasons I am linking the term Relevance, how it is commonly used in recent times, etc., to Painting is that often this kind of noise reduction involves value judgements but also aesthetic judgements or judgements of taste. I argue that what is often labelled as noise in a social media channel is not noise, it’s just not a beautiful signal. In other words, Twitter and writing tweets is a beauty contest and only the beautiful tweets are Signal while the less beautiful ones, the ones that lose the beauty pageant, are the ones that are Noisy tweets.

The problem is that tweets are written by individuals, and so slowly but surely, it is individuals who are being judged on the beauty of their tweets. This begins to be problematic for me for individuals risk being cast out merely based on the so-called relevance of their tweets, entirely based on arbitrary sets of criteria, i.e. what somebody else decides is relevant or not. The Relevance of the information that you put out into the world, Relevance with a capital R, is now the sole metric by which you are being judged, as an individual, in fact your entire existence as an entity in the world is being decided on whether or not YOU are relevant. It is no longer about your tweets, it is about whether or not YOU are relevant as a person.

This is where I believe the art and her art practise comes in because we often hear people say the same thing about works of art, whether or not the works, or the artists themselves, are Relevant. Notice how we are no longer speaking about Twitter and newsfeeds, and we surely are no longer speaking of queries and search engines and information retrieval or information science. We are far removed from where the term relevance first came into our vocabulary, and that in itself is very problematic for me because this is how people can start to get hurt. This is why I spoke of misconceptions and so forth as being dangerous. In this case, a term has entered a vocabulary, has crossed domains, and I see it leading to dangerous, hurtful consequences in the concrete, practical, day-to-day life of individual human beings.

To relate this back to the (art) practise of Painting, let me start by making a few bold statements: In an art practise, it is not the artist who decides what is relevant. That is, the artist merely adheres to what is topical, let’s call it, but does not choose what is or is not Topical. The artist does not choose what is most appropriate to portray. The subject in art is always chosen on an ad hoc basis, by the artistry itself, not the artist. The artist is not free to choose in this sense. The artist in her art practise can choose what tools and techniques she wants to use, she can decide what treatment at the technical level is most appropriate or apropos. She does not choose what Subjects or Topics or whatnot are part of the set of All Relevant Topics. This is already chosen in advance by the Moment, the Time, by the moral climate or moral temperature, if you will, the Milieu or Environment in which the artist lives. Some subjects or topics, concepts and so forth, might be relevant across more domains or fields. They might be universally topical in a more global sense, or they might be topical at a more or less local level. But there is always something that is appropriate, and everything else that is not. The artist does not choose what the menu is in this sense, only what meal they want to eat at this or that time, chosen from the menu of available dishes. To think otherwise is to misconstrue what an artist is and what the work is that artists do, and it is a dangerous misconception.

Put another way, the subject that I choose can only ever be an instance of the classes of All Possible Subjects AND Subjects Currently Relevant. Note: The latter two can be separated into Subjects Which Are Relevant AND For This Moment/Time. That is how I have come to the tentative equation for art: A=r(t), art is that which is relevant for all times. And that is the technical definition of Timelessness in art. I will try to explain further at a later time. Stay tuned.

Note: Another way to put it. A reporter doesn’t invent the news, she merely reports it. She reports what is happening, doesn’t invent what is happening. It is in this way that I said I, as an artist, was merely reporting the cultural news. I report on Culture. It’s a simplistic way of seeing it, but it can help get a better idea of what I am trying to articulate here.

The Great Patternless Void

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I find the daily practise of being fascinated by finding new patterns in something rather lukewarm and boring. I often hear people talk about patterns as though they were trying to uncover all the patterns in the universe so they could put them in a box somewhere. They speak of pattern languages, yet they are not designers. They constantly speak of things such as mindfulness and meditation, yet they seem to be doing the exact opposite of what they are describing.

That’s fine by me. That’s their prerogative, I guess, to do that and be that way. But when they come and tell me that I’m doing it wrong or whatnot, and criticize Me harshly, I fear that I find it all rather lukewarm and boring. Tepid, really. Room temperature IQ.

I’m not the one all excited about discovering patterns. These same people will look at my artistic production and start looking for patterns, the same patterns that they see everywhere. I must be telepathic, I guess, if I was able to put the patterns they see everywhere into my paintings, without ever having seen the patterns, or went looking for them. Yet they persist to deny what I say about my own artistic production, I, the author of my works.

I’m not all that bitter about it. What I am is sad, though, for I feel that I must be the only one on earth that was born imperfect and with flaws. Everyone else just seems so darn perfect. They are masterful pattern-watchers, and me, I only see one thing, The Great Patternless Void. And I embrace it. I ask it for guidance, to lead me down the right path, whatever path makes It happiest.

I don’t get all excited about that either. I never said I was in it for the excitement, or for lukewarm workaday epiphanies. I am not here to worry about such pleasantries. I apologize if that makes me seem hyper-solemn. People say I am too intense, that I am too profound, in any case, they end up telling me I am apparently all the things that they are seeking in life. Because that’s what they do, they seek most actions based on this same set of criteria, they want intense experiences, they want the powerful, potent stuff. Yet when they see it in the flesh, or see someone experiencing such things in the flesh, they spit on him.

Humility is not some heroic individual action. I am not asking to be celebrated. Life is a celebration for me, but I don’t need anything to feel the drunkenness that others need to drink and attend cocktail parties to feel, or to go to the movies.

Again, that’s all fine and dandy. The one thing I can say about the kinds of individuals I have been talking about is that they seem to be having a genuine, jolly good time. So in that regard, I am genuinely happy for them. You are happy saying one thing and doing another. Unfortunately, and also that which makes me most sorrowful, is that I am unable to do that. I have done it before, and could not bear the pain of ever doing it again. But please do whatever makes you happiest, there can never be any real harm in that, if it is genuine joy you are experiencing.

But, alas, I am unable to chase after such joys. And for that stubbornness, I guess, and other like things, I apologize, but not to you. Not to myself either. I apologize, though it is not an apology. I merely try to keep that pockmark that I was born with always in the back of my mind somewhere. And when others ask about me, how I am doing and so forth, I try never to pretend that that pockmark is not right there staring me in the face like the inside of my own eyelids. But it isn’t feeling sorry either. It is a state of asking for a kind of cosmic forgiveness, because everything else, myself and everything in the world forced me to surrender in absolute terms. It was the only way forward for me. I don’t like it any more than anyone else would, but it does help heal a broken heart, I will tell you that much. And I was born heartbroken, that is the mark on my flesh, the spot, reminding me never to forget that One Thing.. What thing? You know, the Thing, there? My will, my only desire.. to belong to Someone..

Again, does that make me heroic? Unfortunately for you, no. I say for you because it’s they that seem to be looking for heroism. I said at the beginning that I do not care for such things. There is nothing as heroic as the Universal Abstract Distributed Pattern Generator, or whatever you like to call her. Your pockmarked patterns are little in comparison, but great reminders. Like Post-It notes for the soul, to you, from The Great Patternless Void.

Crunch Time

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In field recording, I discovered the impact and influence I had in the recordings. I had to become invisible. To do that, and monitor the recording process properly, I also couldn’t be listening. So I had to find a way to become like a first-person universal "sound technician" without actually being there.

I had to become powerless to influence the recording. It required much experimentation, much training. I couldn’t move the microphone. A big truck would go by and the ground would shake beneath me. Sometimes I had to move to avoid being hit by a bus. Sometimes someone stopped me and asked me what I was doing.

I couldn’t say anything or I would suddenly be part of the recording. Sometimes people are so insistent that I have to stop recording to tell them I was recording and they just interrupted the process. I am always recording. I had to invent ways to keep recording when I couldn’t use the sound recorder. So I took field notes too, to make up for lost time.

Remember, I was doing this before you could easily obtain proper equipment to do this. It was easier to get a hold of the proper equipment to do field recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, funny enough. But I was a teenage boy with very few resources. But I wanted to do field recordings of everything, the natural world, urban centers, and so forth. And I did it, and kept doing it for 20 years now, give or take.

The difference now is that I use a GPS, I have 4 digital audio recorders (portable media devices), have access to 8 or so digital cameras should I need them. I use index cards, notebooks of every shape and size. But I can’t use computers or tablets or mobile phones in the field, really. There’s no app for what I do. At least not yet.

That’s who I have been and what I have become. I am the mobile recording studio, always in the field. I have become a field artist. And now it’s Crunch Time.

No, But Seriously – Part II

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The previous post relates to a few things. The trick is not remembering in and of itself. Think of actual Archives in general, whether they are for academic, business (for profit), government, non-profit, and other purposes. In an academic institution, or say a research laboratory, or even a Science Museum, there’s no use in preserving the things in and of themselves, i.e. there is no intrinsic value, if you will, to just storing something, whether it is experimental data or a scientific instrument used in a research process. There has to be some other value, at least to me that’s what makes it all worthwhile. What I am finding increasingly important is the idea of a) all the material that is being lost forever, but also b) how rich a treasure archives are specifically of scientific research, laboratory work, experimental data, findings, and so on.

Example. It’s not enough that someone made some amazing discovery. It’s not enough to have a record of how they went about discovering it. If they took samples, you ideally want to still have access to the samples and so forth (I am simplifying things for brevity). This is true of inventions too, which is why we have a patent system. The true impetus, rationale for such a system is for the enrichment of all, right? The patent records give us the ability to a) know what abstract knowledge came before so we can properly add to it or invent new abstract knowledge and b) it’s also great for a host of other things, like maintaining the quality or integrity of something, or its authenticity, if you will, as in, "Is that how those chairs were made? What made IKEA designs so x, y, and z? Are these real IKEA chairs, how can I verify that?"

It’s much more complicated than that obviously, but the point is that there are treasures in there waiting to be found which might not be where you might think to look. A lot of the technology that came just before the official standards in information technology, communication technology and so forth, the digital computer, a.k.a. The Information Age, i.e. before the transistor and the use of silicon and so forth, that technology was abandoned for obvious reasons. What is forgotten though is that often the shortcomings that say vacuum tubes had may no longer exist. Whatever constraints existed that made people switch to transistors, that made the abandoned solution suboptimal, maybe due to some future innovation, that constraint is no longer true. That opens up the possibility of using vacuum tubes again, perhaps for a whole host of yet undiscovered purposes. Just a simple example.

Just as many minds are better than one, i.e. the old wisdom of the crowd idea where a group of people guessing how many jelly-beans there are in a jar of jelly-beans can collectively come to a much better approximation than any single person will tend to come to – because processing can often scale that way, I guess – better preserved archives and more people looking through them is also optimizing, especially looking at the record of old inventions and otherwise many of the traces or paths, trails that led us to the Present Moment, etc. One should perhaps also take a closer look at abandoned or discarded inventions, ideas, etc., and the reasons for their ending up in the historical trash-pile. In other words, you never know what you might find in a pile of garbage. I call that something that was Kierke-disregarded, a.k.a. fell prey to Kierkegaardian disregard, true crypto-kierkegaardian pseudonymity where Lost was just another name for Found.

Discoveries seem to work that way. I see discovery as the discovery of Artifacts in the most general sense of the term. Artifacts are always unique. The artifact isn’t just the thing sitting in the archive, at least not when treating of these kinds of archives, with experimental data, scientific research, etc. The artifact isn’t just the thing being observed or studied either. The artifacts are also the things that went wrong with the equipment, the things that interfered with the research programme itself, all the above and more. There were artifacts that interfered with the scientist’s work, artifacts in their own minds, in their own perception of the world, and by implication, with their own perceptions of themselves observing themselves using scientific instruments to study various phenomena.

We’re at the point now where the resolution is incredibly good, amongst other things, and we should be going back to check every single piece of knowledge that humans ever put to clay or paper or to archives and catalogues and databases and so forth. Think of it in terms of the Bitcoin protocol and its blockchain. The integrity of the blockchain, as public ledger or register, is all-important in Bitcoin if we want it to work properly. Same thing goes for the integrity of information or data assets, structures, types, the integrity of the data models themselves.

I often say that the age of narratives is over. This is not a story, Experience is not a story, Existence is not a story. There can be no systematic theory of this type of thing. It is distributed, it has countless concurrent processes, it is adaptive, non-linear and dynamic, what more do you want me to say? This is Not the Narrative You Are Looking For. In the meantime, you missed out on the most beautiful thing of all, the thing you weren’t paying attention to when you were paying attention to the thing you were paying attention to, i.e. you were paying attention to the trajectory, the voyage, the exploration, a.k.a. Story, and not the individual tiles that make up the micro-mosaic of episodes. You were looking at the pattern(s) and the process(es) and trying to see how they fit together to form a Big Picture, you were not paying attention to the actual artifacts. For me personally, the real artifact, the most important artifact of all, in fact the ONLY Artifact that there truly is, is => **The Interference Fringe Pattern**! That will always be where all the action is for me, and that’s what is being documented and kept in my personal archives: The catalogue, the database of such high-order side effects, one by one, plucked from Experience, documented, abstract containers of the very quintessence of everything that is or could possibly be.

The problem with this is that it may take a while. Also it’s important to realize that you simply can’t compose a protocol that will make it work. You can’t control it. You can’t reduce uncertainty. There will always be interference and noise, data loss, corruption, etc. You can’t shape it to make it more resilient. Do you see where I am going with this? You basically can’t alter the physical laws of the universe. Don’t even bother trying.

Now jump back to me reading Henry Petroski’s book about failure and then breaking my leg, spending 3 months in the hospital, having to learn to walk again in a place where I just lost half my most valuable personal possession of all, my personal Archive going back 30+ years. If you got a group of people and tried to think of what the perfect torture mechanism would be for me at that precise moment in time, you could never have come up with something as profoundly torturing as that. I couldn’t even think of it myself. I actually accidentally slipped on black ice and broke my leg. Note to Self: St-Paul didn’t throw himself off the horse and experience metanoic conversion, he fell off the horse.

So, the only thing you can do is build on what fails most beautifully: Data loss, noise, corruption, corrosion, fractures, cracks, fragmentation, and so on and so forth. But if you focus on what I call the beautiful signals, like how beautiful the Rhythms of the Brain book is by Gyorgy Buzsaki, you’re missing the whole point. You’re missing what’s right there in front of you that can never be attributed to the book itself, since your Experience hadn’t even happened yet when the book was already bound up and stocked on the shelves in the Amazon super-warehouse. So the signal: "I recommend this Book," is the wrong signal, because whoever recommended I read Petroski almost cost me my life. Except the only way I would ever have found that book was if for the last 20+ years I had been implementing and optimizing the perfect search strategy for finding rare finds in old book-stores and through piles of books libraries throw away that you can purchase for 1$ a pound, or garage sales, etc. I am a collector of rare books, but not books with monetary value. The best book is the one that doesn’t exist, the singular book that is out of print and that almost no one even has any record that it exists. The best book is the book that hasn’t been written yet and that perhaps will never be written, or that will be written but lost forever to History. Those are always the best things in life, that which was most necessary, and also necessarily must have come to pass. This has always been my interpretation of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It is the Vanity of Vanities. Better to stare disinterestedly at the moving pictures of the fringe effects as they get stuffed into the catalogue. Call it: A Season in The Life of a Manual, Characters in Search of The Lost Anti-Logbook. Remember, Interference, too, Can Be Beautiful. 🙂